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Posted at 03:31 PM ET, 09/22/2011

Law-breaking particle at CERN exceeds the speed of light


CERN, where the offender was launched. (FABRICE COFFRINI - AFP/GETTY IMAGES)
Stop the presses!

Hold the phones!

If you don’t have a phone or a press, find a hipster who does!

The speed of light is broken! CERN has just measured subatomic particles traveling at faster than the speed of light ! Or, in non-English: CERN (that’s the European Organization for Nuclear Research to you, American) has just measured a neutrino (that’s a subatomic particle to you, uh, Multicellular Organism) that traveled from Geneva, Switzerland, to a destination in Italy and managed to exceed the speed of light by 60 nanoseconds — with a margin of error of only 10 nanoseconds.

“Something exceeds the speed limit in Italy, and somehow this is news?”

If true, this is huge. The idea that the speed of light is a constant, never to be exceeded, has been fixed since the time of Albert Einstein. It’s one of those operating assumptions that underlie our every action, like “single men with cats are bad marriage material” or “if TV critics praise a show for being fresh, funny and insightful, it will fail.” If this isn’t true, nothing is true. All the rules on which I’ve based my existence — “Christmas calories don’t count,” “the Orioles will lose,” “if you like a product or service, inevitably they will change it, start charging you more, or George Lucas will add new scenes and special features.” Up is up, down is down, right is whatever position Ron Paul currently occupies, and the speed of light cannot be broken.

This is so huge that the Europeans are asking us to check it. They haven’t done that since the rise of the Third Reich.

If we can verify it, then it’s the only real news today. It will force us to rethink all our scientific assumptions. The speed of light was supposed to be an absolute limit, like the age of consent, not a guideline, like the drinking age.

Rick Perry was right. Science is wrong. “The Big Bang Theory” will have to go off the air in shame.

But on the bright side, now maybe we can visit Tatooine after all! We just discovered it . At the rate we’re going this week, “Star Wars” will turn out to be a documentary.

Still, if true, this is huge. It undermines everything we’ve thought since 1905.

We’ll have to rethink all our other assumptions. Maybe we don’t need coffee to survive. Maybe shark attacks aren’t more relevant to our lives than car crashes. Maybe we should trust Greeks bearing gifts.

I’ve had so many of my assumptions unsettled that I have this intense urge to become a Scientologist.

It’s too much. Next time we see a particle do that, somebody ought to pull it over.

By  |  03:31 PM ET, 09/22/2011

Tags:  CERN, light-speed

 
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